The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has recently issued a consultation about transparency.
The President is the most senior Family Judge in England & Wales. He is asking for views on the following issues:
Firstly, how the Guidance issued in January is working in practice (that Guidance told judges when they could and should publish judgments in family cases, and gave guidance about anonymity). In particular:
- The impact on children and families, both immediate, short term and long term. I have in mind, for example, the risk of a child in later life coming across an anonymised judgment about his background and learning details of it for the first time.
- The impact on local authorities and other professionals.
- Any change in the level and quality of news and reporting about the family justice system.
Secondly, whether any steps can be taken to enhance the listing of cases in the Family Division and the Family Court so that court lists can be made more informative than at present as to the subject matter of the cases (without naming the parties).
Thirdly, views on proposed further guidance dealing with the disclosure of certain categories of document to the media. It is proposed that there would be a pilot project, confined to cases heard by High Court judges sitting in London (and possibly a limited number of DFJs elsewhere), where the documents that might be disclosed would be:
- Documents prepared by the advocates, including case summaries, position statements, skeleton arguments, threshold and fact-finding documents.
- Some experts’ reports, or extracts of such reports, probably those in the “hard sciences” (which probably means not psychological reports).
Particular questions relating to the third topic are :
- Which types of documents should be included in category (1) and which types of expert in category (2)?
- Should access to such documents be confined to those members of the accredited media who actually attend the hearing or extend to any member of the accredited media entitled to attend the hearing, whether or not they do attend?
- What further restrictions and safeguards are desirable?
Fourthly, the President is seeking preliminary, pre-consultation views about the possible hearing in public of certain types of family case.
- What types of family case might initially be appropriate for hearing in public?
- What restrictions and safeguards would be appropriate?
- What form might a pilot take?
You can read the consultation document here. Comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.